Multidirectional abundance shifts among North American birds and the relative influence of multifaceted climate factors

Global Change Biology
By: , and 



Shifts in species distributions are major fingerprint of climate change. Examining changes in species abundance structures at a continental scale enables robust evaluation of climate change influences, but few studies have conducted these evaluations due to limited data and methodological constraints. In this study, we estimate temporal changes in abundance from North American Breeding Bird Survey data at the scale of physiographic strata to examine the relative influence of different components of climatic factors and evaluate the hypothesis that shifting species distributions are multidirectional in resident bird species in North America. We quantify the direction and velocity of the abundance shifts of 57 permanent resident birds over 44 years using a centroid analysis. For species with significant abundance shifts in the centroid analysis, we conduct a more intensive correlative analysis to identify climate components most strongly associated with composite change of abundance within strata. Our analysis focus on two contrasts: the relative importance of climate extremes vs. averages, and of temperature vs. precipitation in strength of association with abundance change. Our study shows that 36 species had significant abundance shifts over the study period. The average velocity of the centroid is 5.89 km·yr−1. The shifted distance on average covers 259 km, 9% of range extent. Our results strongly suggest that the climate change fingerprint in studied avian distributions is multidirectional. Among 6 directions with significant abundance shifts, the northwestward shift was observed in the largest number of species (n = 13). The temperature/average climate model consistently has greater predictive ability than the precipitation/extreme climate model in explaining strata‐level abundance change. Our study shows heterogeneous avian responses to recent environmental changes. It highlights needs for more species‐specific approaches to examine contributing factors to recent distributional changes and for comprehensive conservation planning for climate change adaptation.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Multidirectional abundance shifts among North American birds and the relative influence of multifaceted climate factors
Series title Global Change Biology
DOI 10.1111/gcb.13683
Volume 23
Issue 9
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 13 p.
First page 3610
Last page 3622
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details